Jenn Donnelly


I write reviews on my personal blog Frequent Reader, Infrequent Writer.

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Smashwords book reviews by Jenn Donnelly

  • Part 1: The Lady on May 25, 2011

    ***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS*** On Dark Shores: The Lady is an odd little story of the town of Scarlock and it's many battered residents trying to make their way though life. They live in a land that's apparently in the middle of some sort of war between the Shantari and the Mardon which I think are neighboring races but could be just neighboring countries. It's not really completely clarified within the text itself. The biggest issue with this story is that even though it's part of what will be a series of books it doesn't have it's own individual story arc. It is the beginning of what looks like it will be an amazing story but just that, the beginning. You have the build of getting to know each character, learning the plan of the villain and learning individual character motives which is great, but it's leading to something that even at the end you aren't sure what. Don't get me wrong, the story shows promise, but this looks like it's one of those books where it's best to wait to have all the pieces before you read it. When you reach the end it's much the case of what happens now? From what I've read it's my personal opinion that this story might have been better served as a really long book similar to the Historian in length than to have been broken up into individual pieces to what I believe is going to end up being a trilogy. The beginning is a little hard to get into because it opens jumping from dream to dream in what seems like random characters and tends to leave you a little confused. From there you get a a short introduction to the Mother of the Shantari, but it doesn't really give a full explanation of what she does, who she really is. Yes we know she protects her people and that she has some gifted abilities to do so. We learn that there's something out there called the Dark Waters that's a danger somehow to the people but it's still a bit confusing. I think this scene would have better been served with a bit more background. I realize that some explanations were provided within a glossary at the back of the book, but most readers, myself included never look at glossaries or appendages unless there's no other choice. It's too reminiscent of school. Also a part of this scene included the daughter telling her mother what she should do, and to me that was a little realistic. It was only one line and then the interlude faded back to the norm of the mother being that all-knowing and the daughter asking the questions, but it's a bit jarring. Also the narrative style voice at the beginning leaves the reader at a bit of a distance wondering if you're really going to be able to connect to the characters. That being said the opening still has an interesting flow to it. Clement's words are almost like poetry as she opens this book, and it's almost reminiscent of I'd say and Irish lilting lullaby in flow. Once you've passed the opening you start to get a real introduction the characters. You root for poor Nereia, an orphan uprooted from her home and mistreated by her awful cousin, while she struggles through dangers trying to protect her young sister Mary from the harsh truths of their life. You wish that Blakley would get a backbone and save the entire town from Copeland instead hiding in his drugs and booze while following his cruel employers orders. And you grow more and more curious about just what Mickel is doing in Scarlock because it's made very clear there's more to Mickel than meets the eye. Toward the end you even have a growing respect for the Madam. The last portion of the story introduces a few new characters, but the story doesn't have the opportunity to delve enough into those for you to really understand what role they're going to play in this book series. You have the idea it's going to be a pivotal role, but you can't be sure without having more to read. It does take a little bit to find that connection to the character but once you find that spot the characters are there, in your face and raw. You can't help but connect to them. There are a few odd scenes of skeletons and beaches in small section of the story but as of yet those don't exactly make sense. Honestly I think I'll have a much better understanding when the next section of this story is released. Hopefully it won't be something we have to wait too long for because I finished the book feeling like a little kid whose mother had just come in and taken away their book in the good part and said it's time for bed. So then the kid can't sleep tossing and turning as they wonder what happens next. It's the opening of what could really be a phenomenal series, however it doesn't have enough of it's own story arc to hold as a single title in my personal opinion. However I still appreciate the experience the author has gifted with by giving me this story to read and review.
  • Vampires Rule on May 30, 2011

    ***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS*** Jack Creed has been a reluctant vampire for ten years, turned on the night he was attacked and left for dead by the werewolf who killed his parents, then saved by a group of passing vampires when one took an interest in him as a potential romantic partner. All of that changes when he encounters Silver Reign while visiting his grave and attempts to save her from a werewolf attack. In the misguided attempt to save her Jack is scratched by a werewolf, something fatal to vampires and believes he's going to die. Instead of a quick death at the beginning of the story Jack not only survives but becomes some sort of enhanced mortal with powers of both a werewolf and a vampire, a mortal who's arrival has been prophesied for a very long time. His shared destiny with Silver is to kill the first werewolf, the wolf responsible for creating them all and who's death could save every other werewolf in existence. If they should fail this being will not only destroy all vampires, but the entire human race as well. The story follows his budding relationship with silver, his interactions with his human brother and his vampire family and his path to discovering the first werewolf, a path that leaves him questioning if his destiny is one he wants to fulfill. Overall this book is a great read that keeps you turning pages. I'll admit I debated between three and four stars on this one. But my copy of the book had some issues that kept skipping me around in pages and turning through blank ones to find words. Considering that I decided I might be being a little harsher on the writing than I should be because I was irritated at the difficulty it was giving me reading it on my ipod. That said I decided to give the writer the benefit of the doubt and go with the higher of the two ratings. The story is fast paced and for the most part well written. Some of the things I noticed were first the character names, so many of them were a little far-fetched ie Silver Reign, that I found this a little distracting. With names like that it's hard to picture them as realistic people. While I've read other books with odd character names, most of them have reasonable explanations for those names and the odd names are not employed by the majority of the characters in a the book. That isn't the case with this story in my personal opinion. Another thing about the characters is that I don't think the writer gave them enough actual character flaws to be believable. Silver is bright, articulate, a good fighter, beautiful and her list of appealing qualities goes on and on. The same can be said for Jack. However, I can't really mention anything negative about their characters. Yes Jack used to be a vampire, but he only drank animal blood. Characters in a story are supposed to be a fictional reflection of real people. Real people are not perfect, they have at least one physical flaw that drives them nuts every time they look in a mirror. Real people have at least a handful of bad habits, and they have lists of things they don't really like about themselves, things they want to change. While I could see the flaws in all the secondary characters, in the two main characters, the ones you could tell the writer really cared about you didn't really see flaws. Jack and Silver are practically perfect teenage kids. Yes they skipped school, but that was to free the trapped souls of the poor wraiths from the never-ending slavery of the first werewolf. Yes Jack considered returning to being just a vampire, but the vampires are the ones who saved him from death when the werewolves attacked his family and they then became his friends, his family for the last decade. Everything Jack and Silver do that could possibly have a negative connotation behind it has a completely good and justifiable reason to go with it. I feel the main characters need a little bit more grit and more flaws to be real to a reader. No I'm not asking her to take her favorite characters and make them into criminals but for example with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which the writer has obviously watched, Buffy is an a##kicking vampire and demon slayer, however her grades in school suck because she's so busy saving the world she doesn't have time to study. She's not popular because her priorities aren't the same as a normal teenager and it's very clear during that series that despite her calling Buffy clearly resents her life. While Silver does make similar claims in this story they aren't as believable because she doesn't have the actions to go with them and as the old saying goes actions speak louder than words. Another issue I had with this story is some of the plot points seemed a bit contrived or unoriginal and some of them were predictable. For instance I knew who the first werewolf was the minute Silver mentioned him, I knew he'd already been introduced and I knew exactly what character it was. Silver being the chosen one, and the way it was described seemed like a scene right out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yeah she's more meant to kill werewolves than anything else, but it almost mirrors the Slayer prophecy. And the having met in dreams, being destined to be together thing just was hard to believe. I was also expecting a little bit more in the ending after having read all that build up throughout the book. I felt cheated to not get the final confrontation in this story especially when the battle we did get didn't have nearly the attention or build enough to satisfy me as a reader with the ending. That said, it was an interesting story and employed a lot of things I did like. I found it intriguing to keep getting pulled into memories when Jack touched something or someone. I liked character of Jersey Clifford, the way he was both intelligent and insane. He was the kind of character who drew you in, who you wanted to understand. I'd have to have seen more of his interaction with Jack, more back story in to him and everyone else including the prophesy. I liked Lily and Summer but again I don't think they got enough play in the story. I guess the thing I think this story is really missing is the build. When the writer decided she wanted to make this a series, she should have added a little more bulk to the villain she was planning to take out in this section of the story. It needed more than just a few random scenes for a reader to feel vindicated when he's taken out. It's missing the back story I guess, the explanations to make it completely believable. We did get some of that and those portions that we got were extremely intriguing. They had me curious and kept me turning pages to discover more. It is a good story and a thrilling read, but I personally wish the author had given us just a little bit more throughout the story to make it something no reader can dismiss or ignore. Additionally I'd like to thank the author for offering me the chance to read and review her book by giving me a free review copy.
  • Between The Land And The Sea on June 26, 2011

    RECEIVED FROM: The Author For Review ***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS*** Marina is about to start her senior year of high school in a new school, the first she's ever actually attended, and for the first time without her Dad there to support her. Marina's father is a agronomist who's spending the year in Afghanistan to help them develops ways to feed their country, while Marina is going to Aptos, California to live with her Aunt Abby and her cousin Cruz in their little seaside town. She believes her life is over until she encounters a sexy boy named Ethan and an ethereal mermaid name Lorelei. Soon she's drawn into the little seaside town and the mysteries of the ocean it borders, embarking on a dangerous quest to find out who she is and where she comes from. Will she survive to discover the answers she seeks? The summary isn't the best description of the book, but lately I seem to find myself staring at a blank screen forever just to try to find the right words to both summarize and review the books I've read. I don't know if it's having a blog that's creating this loss for words in my writing or just some temporary mental block, but hopefully it goes away soon. Anyway back to the review. This book is really more of a 3.5 stars than 3 but I don't do half ratings since I copy my reviews to my different profiles it's easier to stay with solid stars since that's what the other sites use. I actually only found two things that I think detracted from what is an otherwise well written and interesting story, however one of them was just so big that it dropped my rating considerably. The first thing that bothered me, and this is actually the smaller one was that the characters seemed to have this inside joke that was never explained to the reader. There's multiple scenes with giggling characters where I didn't really understand what was so funny. To the characters in this novel there's apparently something hilarious about the statement "That's what she said." I didn't get it and there's nothing worse than being on the outside of a joke. Okay well there is, but it still sucks when you're left out. The thing that I thought was the major flaw with this book was the Mary Sue tendencies of the characters and their lifestyles. They weren't quite perfect but they were darn close, at first I wasn't going to ding this book so hard for this, but it was her father winning the Nobel prize that kind of put it over the top for me. Marina has traveled extensively attending online school because her father is not only a brilliant agronomist (a job that to be honest I'd never heard of before reading this book.) but also holds a faculty position at a prestigious university. Apparently he's powerful enough that Marina can get her own way on all her classes just by mentioning his name to the school guidance counselor. She herself is brilliant and is only attending high school because her father feels she's too independent and needs to learn to be around her peers. It's pretty apparent that no one really expects her to learn anything new academically there. Let's not forget that's she's beautiful and mystical as well. Her neighbor, who's pretty much adopted her to the point she's referred to as Aunt Evie, is a retired fashion model who dresses Marina is Prada and other top of the line designers just because she enjoys doing it. If that weren't enough with this flamboyant character she has a basement full of expensive cars that she lets Marina learn to drive on and oh she's the original fashion "it" girl. Not to mention the fabulous Evie spends her time searching out hidden talents in fashion and music and helping them succeed in the business. (I seriously need an Aunt Evie.) Her cousin Cruz, though a social outcast is a brilliant but as of yet undiscovered fashion designer. His best friend Meghan is a song writer with the most amazing voice. And we can't forget that Evan the boy who falls for Marina is the hottest and most respect guy in school. He's the best surfer on the beach, works all the time to achieve his future and adores the perfect Marina. I had planned to mention this from about the introduction of Aunt Evie, but I hadn't planned to make as big of a deal of it in my review until Dad won the Nobel prize. That's just what put it over the top for me. The only negative things really in the character's lives is that Ethan doesn't have a lot of money and his mother ran off when he was only a kid. Cruz is a social outcast, and believe his father died in a car crash when he was a baby only to learn later that his father was a married man who tried paying his mother to abort him. Meghan is overweight and also a social outcast. And finishing out the social outcast crew is Marina who's mother died in child birth. It's as if the writer has found a couple flaws she likes and just attributed them to every character. The book however is extremely well written, fast paced and a quick and enjoyable read. The plot has some interesting twists and turns that keep readers turning the page. The only thing I think the writer needs to learn is that perfect characters may lead wonderful lives, but it's harder for a reader to relate to characters whose lives they envy than a characters who has just as many issues as they do. Overall though I really did enjoy reading this book and I would recommend it to others who enjoy young adult urban fantasy novels. It's an excellent debut novel from a writer I look forward to reading more of. There's an obvious talent in the writing and the ability to weave a page turning story. I only hope that the characters become a little more believable in future works.
  • The Moon And The Tide on June 28, 2011

    RECEIVED FROM: The Author For Review ***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS*** Marina Vanderpool is the half human, half mermaid child of a mermaid and a Nobel prize winning scientist. She lives a life that most people only dream of and has four years to decide whether she wants to be a child of the land or the sea. Though she's made her choice to stay with her human family before, she can't deny that the sea and her mermaid sisters call to her. Marina becomes like a rope in an emotional tug of war between her sea siren sisters and her human friends and family. Neither wants to share her or give her up and she isn't willing to turn her back on either. When her secret is exposed during a terrible accident everyone she cares about is threatened. Will she be able to protect them all? Can she even protect herself? Anderson makes a brilliant return in the second story in her Marina's Tales series. Her characters start to really take shape in this story. Marina has an addictive personality, she's slightly self centered and on the dishonest side. Evan is clingy and though protective definite leaning toward controlling in his need to protect her and keep her. Aunt Evie is manipulative. Cruz, is WAY self centered, it's almost like he thinks the world revolves around him. Meghan get's a bossy side. Now if you've read my review from yesterday you'll actually understand how this is an EXCELLENT development in Derrolyn Anderson's work. In the first novel her characters were just too perfect to feel real. In this tale she provides them with flaws, makes them human for the reader allowing the reader to become a little more attached to each character through their flaws. In this tale she also begins to reveal a little more of what the mermaids' abilities really are. The revelation of their abilities really puts a nice explanation on why every character's life in this novel seems so perfect. It's not just chance, it's magic. Of course, now I need to half mermaid to be my friend so I can lead that kind of life. In The Moon and The Tide Anderson takes the flaws from her first novel and puts a couple of explanations on them to make them seem more realistic because of the mermaid magic woven into the story. She also explains that Marina's lavish lifestyle was created by design to make her immune to persuasion in the form of bribery. She was raised to not value wealth so that she could never be manipulated by wealth. I don't know if this spin and explanation were initially planned by the author when she plotted out the series or a clever way to clean up constructive reviews from her first work right after it was published, however what she's done in this novel really works. She did have a couple of hard to believe scenes, like one where Marina and Lorelei take out some burly bad guys, which did lower my rating a tad. Overall though it was a fast paced and well told story that I really enjoyed reading. She also has a wonderful way of addressing the issues of sex with teens, she doesn't deny that the idea appeals to them, that they're tempted and close to crossing that line. However she also doesn't cross that line with teen readers and condoning premarital teenage sex. I'm not sure if she plans to in future novels, but so far she's keeping the book right where it should be for teen readers without making the teens seem like they're oblivious to hormones. Anderson is not a writer to be missed in the young adult fantasy genre. The Moon and Tide is a wonderful tale of mermaids, love and adventure, and for the price it would be a serious mistake to pass over this series.
  • Of Witches and Warlocks: Blood of the White Witch on July 12, 2011

    Received From: The Author For Review ***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS*** Vance Mangum and Portia Mullins are teenage soul mates. Due to the dangers of their lives as a witch and warlock, they marry young at the beginning of the story. Their honeymoon in Scotland doubles as a rescue mission for the mother Vance hasn't seen since he was a child. Their leads bring them to the home of Douglas and Fiona Cummings, Vance's wealthy grandparents who stand accused of keeping his mother Krista hostage. The Cummings seem to know nothing of what has happened to his mother of his recently deceased father, their own son. They welcome their long lost grandson into their lives with open arms and Portia and Vance are soon drawn into the Cummings lives of wealth and privilege. But all is not what it appears to be in the Cumming's household. Will Portia and Vance discover the truth before it's too late? I really enjoy the second book in this series, but I have to say the third installment was a major let down after the previous book. The first quarter of the book might appeal to the pre-teen reader, but as an adult it definitely didn't appeal to me. I finally understand now why romance novelists end the book at the proposal. The wedding and subsequent honeymoon period leads to very dry and boring reading. "I love you" was said so many times it was like listening to a scratched cd stuck on the same line. They got married and their lives seemed perfect. Yay for them, but frankly as a reader that bored me out of my mind. I know I said the relationship would be more realistic in previous books if it advanced to the next level, but I didn't mean a teen wedding and alluding to the couple have sex every other sentence. On a more comfortable note, we as a reader are at least spared any details of their constant honeymoon sex. We know they're doing it, but the scenes aren't spelled out like in an adult romance. It didn't help that despite how in love the couple seemed, my mind completely rebelled against a high school wedding. I guess the point was demonstrating the moral idea that marriage should come before sex, but I don't think teens should be encouraged to marry that young for any reason. The book starts to get interesting after the first quarter, and though I've never said this about a book before I recommend only skimming the first quarter so you don't loose interest in the story. The middle has an interesting plot line beginning to develop and some really good scenes. What save this book from a bad rating is the last quarter of the novel. The battle scenes are intense, but the raw grief the character feels leaps from the page grabbing you. It yanks you into the pain she feels, giving you no choice but to experience it with her. The emotions and experience of the final quarter of this book are what make this novel worth reading. The book has an odd, open style end that leaves you wanting to read more of the series curious about what will happen next in the saga of Portia and Vance. Overall, I can't say this novel was better than okay. The first quarter of the book with all the happy, lovey dovey scenes really killed it for me. If you could cut the first quarter down to just a few pages and picked the book up from the middle, my rating would have been a lot higher. But you spend too long in the beginning waiting for something to actually happen with the plot for me to qualify this novel as good.
  • Gravity on July 24, 2011

    RECEIVED FROM: Library Thing for Review ***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS*** Ariel Donovan is a completely normal fifteen year old girl living in the town of Hell, Michigan. Well she’s normal if you discount the fact that she calls her parents by their first names. And you don’t mention that her best friend has been missing for three months and without Jenna she’s a social zero. Also if we’re calling her normal we probably shouldn’t mention that she might be seeing ghost and there appears to be something sinister going on beneath the surface of the small town of Hell. Okay so she’s probably not all that normal, but who needs normal when you live in Hell right? Ariel is the girl who’s been left behind in their close friendship, the one with all the questions that no one else is asking. But will she find the answers before it’s too late? I’ll start this review by telling you that mature part of me is telling me that I’m not being fair in my rating of this book. Logically I know it’s a four star novel, well written with strong character development and good pacing. But have you ever read a book where you got to the end and just though wtf? You found yourself so angry you wanted to call up the author and ask her that exact question? Emotionally however I can’t give it higher than a three stars because I finished this book and I’m just plain MAD. That leaves something to be said about my maturity as a reviewer, but at least I’m admitting that I’m letting my anger at the ending dictate my final rating for the book. Each scene within this novel is described so completely it’s like you’re there living it and the characters as so multifaceted that at times they’re confusing, just as real people are. Do you remember those people in high school, especially the teenage boys where you’d think you know them and then they’d do something that left you going huh? Afterward you’d go on and on to your friends about how boys made no sense whatsoever and it’s no wonder that most of the girls had higher grades because boys clearly weren’t born with brains. While as an adult I can claim a slightly better understanding of the opposite sex than I could as a teen, this book brought me right back to that adolescent phase where boys and their actions just made you go huh? By making them not completely make sense at points she makes her characters seem completely real. The book overall is hard to describe, it’s like Veronica Mars meets Ghost Whisper with a hint of something else thrown into the mix, maybe some Charmed, I’m not really sure what that extra element is that makes this story so original. One of the things I loved about Ariel is that it’s not just stated that she’s fifteen, followed by her being whisked away into some surreal world. She’s living the life of a fifteen year old complete with over protective, though strange parents. The books is filled with paranormal elements which Ariel has to deal with or at least attempt to comprehend, but she’s also dealing with teenage crushes, hot and cold boys, teacher boredom and embarrassment. She attends classes, gets sent to the principal’s office, and deals with teenage rejection from the popular crowd who like in every school seem to get away with everything. By being a part of all these mundane portions of her life she’s more real as a character because real teenagers have to go to school and suffer through classes they’d rather not take and agonize over the one subject in school that doesn’t make sense. While there were a few things that seemed off to me which is why I state that it was more deserving four stars than three, like calling parents by first names and other little things I couldn’t comprehend like that. The main thing that upset me about the book was being left with more questions than answers. Is Ariel really seeing ghosts? What was it about the necklace? What’s really happening with the town and how is Henry involved? What does her family seem to know that she doesn’t? And the ending while I guess enlightening in some ways is more frustrating than anything else because it looks like everything has gone wrong, nothing has gone right and no one is getting answers. Additionally, the villain revealed in the novel was completely unexpected and there was no foreshadowing whatsoever that he might be guilty or involved in anything so that was kind of a major huh moment for me. I hope to god this is part of a series because if that is then end of Ariel’s story I’m thinking this writer might be kind of sadistic. To get the reader so involved and weaving the world and characters so intricately to end in the manner she did seems all sorts of wrong to me. Overall I’m hesitant about recommending it. On one hand it’s extremely well written and an engaging story. On the other since I didn’t get hardly any answers but was left instead with a ton of questions and a burning anger I have a hard time recommending someone else step on an emotional roller coaster ride only to be left stuck at the top of the drop at the end wondering if the writer will let them down. I will say this, if there is a sequel to this novel I’d like to preorder it because I am highly involved with the characters she’s presented to me. As a standalone title I couldn’t recommend it only because of the things I’ve stated above, but if this novel opens a new series I highly recommend jumping on for the ride because I can guarantee she will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end.